June 1999

Yuri Yunakov
Balada, Bulgarian Wedding Music
Traditional Crossroads

Anyone accustomed to the pleasurably bland world of the wedding gig scene in United States may be unprepared for the metric and technical intensity of the "wedding music" culture from Bulgaria and Macedonia. As heard on saxophonist Yuri Yunakov's album, Balada, Bulgarian Wedding Music (Traditional Crossroads 4291; 53:06), the Gypsy tradition he espouses is rich in what, to western ears, is metrically complex and fueled by a controlled fever pitch energy. Yunakov, a former boxer who has lived in the Bronx since 1994, plays rapidfire melodies with a clipped articulation and a gung ho energy. He is joined by Balkan legend, accordionist Neshko Neshev, whose clean-burning playing is almost worth the price of admission on its own merits.

Originally published in June 1999
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